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1 Timothy 5:22 – placing of hands as a Jewish custom

14-06-2024 - Posted by Hans

On no one place hands too quickly, nor yet be participating in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

When we think about the meaning of the placing of hands, we should also remember that it was a well-known Jewish custom. In Hebrews 6, readers are reminded of the foundation of education they already knew from their Jewish background. The writer points out, among other things, truths such as conversion, faith in God, resurrection of the dead and eonian judgment, but also “of the teaching of baptizings, besides the imposition of hands” (Heb. 6:2). From the Tanakh (our ‘Old Testament’), Jews were familiar with “a teaching of baptisms”, that is to say: with ritual cleansings in numerous circumstances. That is why synagogues traditionally often have a bath where people can be baptized (mikwah).

But in addition to the fact that the Hebrews were familiar with a “teaching of baptisms,” they also knew a “teaching of the imposition of hands.” This is often the case, especially in connection with the sacrificial service (Lev.1:4; 3:2,8,13, etc.). By the laying on of hands the sacrificer made himself one with the sacrificial animal. But also on other occasions the Israelites were commanded to place hands (Num.8:10). From that background we understand how both Paul and Timothy were familiar with this practice (4:14). Nothing new and certainly not law either.